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THE ROLE OF the human resources (HR) department in any organisation is critical and provides many benefits.

Advice on training, disciplinary matters and performance management are an invaluable asset to the other departments within the organisation. However, the word advice is critical in this context as many of the functions of HR are predicated upon assisting managers to maximise their people resources to achieve objectives.

HR professionals are not to micro-manage other departments. Their role is to assist you in the most effective and legally compliant way so that you can in turn handle the resources within your department.

Think of your HR team as consultants; we are not going to make the decisions for you, but we will outline the pros and cons, legal requirements, best practice, potential fallout of the decision and so on. You, as the manager of that department, need to take the information and make the best decision for your team.

Many times HR practitioners fall into the role of being the mouthpiece for the company or are expected to take the lead in initiatives which do not directly affect or impact our mandate or scope of work. There are many times when HR programmes suffer due to the HR department’s intervention in many other things which could be handled by department managers.

Each manager/supervisor must realise that they have a dual role, they not only have to be sales/operational managers, but they must also manage the resources who help them to achieve their targets and goals. Too often, managers send persons to HR, detaching themselves from making the decisions which impact their staff. Instead of deferring those decisions and procrastinating hoping that the HR professional will make the decision for them. Remember that the departmental manager is the one who has to work with the employee; not the HR manager.

But let’s face it; sometimes we HR managers do make the decision for them.

Indecisiveness can cripple a business. There are times when a quick judgement call becomes necessary and we make the decision, instead of forcing other members of the management team, who may be hesitant, to make the decision.

This article is not meant to be a rant, but a constructive criticism of the way HR practitioners fulfill their role, as well as how other managers in the organisation misunderstand the level of support to be provided.

Below are a few pointers for both sides to ensure that a mutually beneficial relationship is fostered, and there is no resentment festering as a result of misconceptions or misunderstanding.

See HR as an internal consultant; we won’t make the decision for you, but we will offer our professional advice on the matter, providing you with pros and cons of each situation. Try to learn the process and some of the key principles of industrial relations. Too many times, managers don’t understand the climate they are working in, and therefore consistently make mistakes which HR is expected to correct.

HR professionals, as tempting as it may be, do not make decisions for departments that are not their own. Department managers need to be accountable for their decisions and to their team.

Full disclosure is important. HR advice is only as accurate as the information provided, and to ensure that we are truly able to help you, it is imperative that the full picture and all the details of the issue are given.

Make decisions and own them, do not use HR as the scapegoat because you are afraid of potential fallout as a result of your decision. We can all identify with the frustrations of being expected to complete tasks which are a part of another person’s role.

Ultimately department managers are responsible for their team members and while HR will act as a consultant, everyone in the management team must be empowered to act so no one is in a position to say “that is not my role”.